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Thursday, 18 September 2003
Page: 20512

Mr ALBANESE (2:51 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Employment Services. I refer to his comments to the Canberra Times on 23 August:

... we have about 60,000 people who are about to be suspended or are responding to letters on suspension from Centrelink ...

Minister, are you aware that Senator Vanstone has just informed the Senate that the real figure is a maximum of 11,000 or less than a fifth of the minister's figure? In light of these new facts, will the minister now cease his campaign of vilifying the unemployed and accept that the financial crisis that has required a $2.1 billion bailout of the Job Network is due to his own maladministration?

The SPEAKER —The member for Rankin! For the fourth time!

Mr BROUGH (Minister for Employment Services) —I am aware that Senator Vanstone has received a question in the Senate, as she did yesterday. But my understanding is that, like many things that come from the member for Grayndler, this is somewhat distorted from what actually happened. To address one of the points that was raised, in the appropriations this government have made it quite clear that we intend to expend some $2.1 billion on helping Australians into work over the next three years. It was appropriated in the budget; it is there in the papers. The member for Grayndler and the Labor Party call this a bailout—spending the money that has been appropriated for the purpose it was designed to be spent on. There has been no bailout of the Job Network. It simply seems that the member for Grayndler and the Labor Party are fixated on trying to nitpick and not on getting to the basis of driving unemployment down, which is what this government are focused on.

I will go to the specific allegations. The 60,000 people that I referred to are job seekers that in August had not attended interviews. That number was correct at the time and those figures can be substantiated. In other words, there have been 1.6 million appointments made for job seekers to come in to be helped by the Job Network, and there have been approximately 900,000 of those not taken up. This is a serious issue and one that this side of the House takes on as its responsibility—to ensure that unemployed people come in and receive the services that are payed for by the taxpayer to help them get into work.

As I have informed the House in the last few weeks, since the introduction of Job Network 3 there have been some 6,000-plus jobs created for long- and short-term unemployed people—welfare recipients—by the Job Network. Centrelink will continue to work with the Department of Family and Community Services and my department, DEWR, to ensure that people who are not turning up to appointments are given every encouragement to do so and that, if they do not, the appropriate action is taken by that department. We as a government stand by that policy.

Mr Albanese —I seek leave to table the Canberra Times of Saturday, 23 August 2003.

Mr McGauran —It is old news!

The SPEAKER —The Minister for Science! The requirement is simply that the chair ask whether leave is granted.

Leave granted.